Lucha: wrestling, tequila and stretchy pants

BY: MATT GRIPPI

Soon, masked men in capes and stretchy pants will be fighting other mysterious masked enemies in front of an audience. No, this is not the description of a blockbuster summer comic book movie, this is what will be happening at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach on September 14th. The form of Mexican professional wrestling is featured in an upcoming documentary film called “Viva Lucha Libre” directed by Brad Bemis. The film will be premiered at a screening at the MOLAA in an effort to spread the word about what the filmmakers consider “the definitive film about the sport of lucha libre.” The film includes interviews with actual luchadores, WWE producers and writers, and even actors and comedians such as Patton Oswalt.

For this event, the filmmakers have made sure to make it a memorable experience beyond just a film screening. After the film, audiences will be treated to an actual lucha libre wrestling match, starring luchadores from Los Angeles and Mexico. Food and drinks will be made available, including a free tequila tasting.

The free tequila will be much appreciated, as the sport of lucha libre will most likely be improved by a slight buzz. The sport is over-the-top, theatrical and absolutely crazy. Fans of the movie “Nacho Libre” will be surprised to find that the actual sport may actually be stranger that its movie counterpart.

Unlike professional wrestling in the United States, lucha libre is not completely scripted and avoids some of the contrived drama and prewritten storylines. Instead, the drama is created by the mystery of the luchadores, and their constant masked appearance. Luchadores who take themselves especially seriously will often never be seen in public without their masks, and for some, the removal of the mask in the ring is the ultimate form of loss.

These masks elevate the luchadores beyond just a person or a wrestler. They become a character and a persona that is adored by the fans. They’re similar to a comic book character, which has both a secret identity and an alter ego. Yes, American wrestling does rely on outlandish characters, but they seem much more forced and ridiculous than the luchadores.

Unlike the generally fake American wrestling, the sport is also extremely dangerous and sometimes not politically correct. In the deleted scenes for “Viva Lucha Libre,” a wrestler named “Damian 666” shows off massive brutal scars that he has suffered in the ring over the years.

“A wrestler lives with pain 365 days a year,” says luchador Blue Demon Jr. in the documentary’s trailer.

The concept of lucha libre seems like a low-brow sport to be performed at an art museum, but after learning more about the history and mythology of Mexican wrestling, it seems obvious why a Latin American museum would want to put it on display. The colors, the characters and the high-flying moves are all part of a spectacle that should be unforgettable.

Many people in Long Beach are unaware of this strange and spectacular sport. If you’re looking for something unique to do on a Friday night, or you’re at least in the mood for some free tequila, this is definitely worth checking out.